A terrible, awful, very good day

Dec 10 2010

I was 2.5 hours late to work yesterday morning.

I took a kid to a doctor’s appointment in the morning.  The appointment was a half-hour long and an hour round-trip from home, so part of my delay to work was planned.

Then, just as I was headed out of town for my 22-minute commute to work, my husband called.   Whenever a conversation starts with “Where are you?” you know there’s a hovering shoe waiting to drop.

He had locked his keys in his van.  Did I have mine?  If so, could I bring them to him?

Considering the number of times my husband and other family members have bailed me out of similar situations… car out of gas, keys locked inside, child bleeding profusely from the head because his sister pushed him onto the sharp edge of the car door and needs to go to the hospital for stitches… you know, the usual… I really needed to return the favor graciously.

Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to have my keys to his van with me.

My purse is a black hole of debris.  I couldn’t be certain I didn’t have the keys, but I hadn’t seen them for at least 3 weeks.  In a fit of courage, I upended the purse on my passenger seat and dug through the refuse.  Sure enough, no van keys.

I turned my car around and went home to find my keys, my white horse, and my cute little knight-in-shining-armor number.

After a half hour of hunting, I couldn’t find any of the above.

Instead, while running around the house, I sneezed.  Which caused me to simultaneously bite my tongue and pee my pants and trip on a pile of laundry in my room.

Yes, it’s true.  I’m that awesome.

After 45 minutes, I called my husband and asked him to rescue himself.  He’s clearly better at it and more qualified than I am.  He bought a rod (seriously, that’s what he called it) at Home Depot and jimmied himself out of his problem in less than two minutes.  Sometimes, you just need a rod.

On my way to work for the second time, I drafted a list on a piece of paper that I unstuck from underneath a McDonald’s happy meal box on my passenger-side floor mat.  Don’t worry — I only wrote when I was stopped at red lights.  Since all the lights were red on the way to work, I had lots of time to work on my list.

I titled it “How to Not Lose My Poo.”  Except I didn’t use the word poo.

On the list: 1) Clean out my purse. 2) Clean out my car. 3) Clean my room.

I started to feel better.  I am Hannibal from the A-Team.  I love it when a plan comes together.  A well-ordered list is but the first step of a well-executed plan.  I may not have learned much in my 37 years, but I’ve learned this:  I can bitch at my family when we all get home at the end of a terrible, awful, no good, very bad day.  Or I can do something productive, dare I say listy, to make it a terrible, awful, very good day.

List in hand, I moved on to execution.  I had to figure out how to do three whole list items (items that had been on my mental list for months) while also feeding my family dinner, helping three kids with homework, breaking up fights, and reminding our twin 4-year-olds not to ride our 12-pound dog.

I called my father.  I told him that I was about to lose my poo and asked if he could come over to spell me on kid-duties so I could work on a List.

My father is a former Marine.  He understands the value of the List.  He found his white horse and shining armor and he came over at dinner time.

I cleaned my purse.  I cleaned my car.  I found my van keys.  In my car.

My loving husband found his shining armor and cleaned our room.

My kids did their homework with Papa.  The 4-year-olds didn’t ride the dog.  The children only put themselves into two or three dangerous situations.  My dad cleaned my kitchen.

The laundry room is a much bigger mess than when we started the evening.  I’m sure there’s some sort of a mathematical algorithm that shows that when one area of my house is cleaned another area necessarily becomes equally dirty.  But I don’t care. Because we did it.  We made it through another day.  Maybe even in a healthier place than when we started.

It was a terrible, awful, very good day.

Dear Nicky’s Mom

Nov 22 2010

Dear Nicky’s Mom,

Thank you for sewing the tear in Aden’s stuffed leopard.

The tear I’d promised to fix.

Approximately 4 weeks ago.  Or maybe 5.  Or maybe 6.

Imagine my surprise when Aden rushed to me after school with a huge grin on her face and told me that her leopard was fixed.

“Oh,” I said neutrally.  “Did someone fix it for you?”

“Yes!” she responded. “Yay! Yay! Yay!”

“Who fixed it for you?” I asked.

“Nicky’s mom!” she said enthusiastically.

“Who’s Nicky’s mom?” I asked.

“Nicky’s in my class,” she responded.

“Did you ask Nicky’s mom to fix your leopard?”

“Yes!”

“I thought I was going to fix it.”

“Whoops.” Aden said.

So, from a mom who doesn’t meet work deadlines to fix torn leopards to a mom who spends her free time making little girls’ dreams come true… you have my appreciation and gratitude.  And a teeny, tiny bit of horrified embarrassment.

Sincerely,

Aden’s Mom

A Birthday, A Monster, and A Murder

Nov 21 2010

Today was my son Ian’s 11-year-old birthday party.

I made a terrible faux pas.

Ian’s birthday is close to Thanksgiving.  Like anyone with a child whose birthday is close to a holiday, I try to make his birthday special by not allowing the holiday to bleed all over his special day.  Ian’s birthday isn’t about turkey or pumpkin pie, cornucopias or fall leaf decorations.  This year, Ian’s birthday is about turning 11 and being a boy.  Being cool.  Blaring rock music and playing football with his friends.

That’s why I was so excited when I found a green monster cake at the grocery store.  Technically, I suppose it breaks my Separation of Holiday and Birthday Rule.  I mean, I have to admit that grabbing a premade cake is a holiday inspired shortcut to allow me more time during Thanksgiving prep.

And, granted, it’s not a three-tiered, homemade, fondant-covered masterpiece like my sister-in-law Kim made for my eldest daughter Abby on her 11th birthday.

But Ian’s a boy.

He was a zombie for Halloween this year.

Last year, he was the victim of a spider that was sucking the life out of him.

Which clearly made him feel joyful.

And the year before that, he was a vampire.

In short, polkadotted fondant’s going to be rather under-appreciated by him.

Which is why I didn’t spend a lot of time feeling bad about taking a Thanksgiving week shortcut with a store bought cake.

Especially a store bought monster cake.  Because monsters are cool and scary and awesome and perfect for 11-year-old boys who want to be zombies and spider victims and vampires.  Right?  Can I hear an “amen?”  Amen!

Imagine my horror when I arrived at home with my special find, transferred it to my cake plate (hey – it’s store-bought, but I can pretend I made it) and looked closely at it for the first time.

And discovered…

… that it was Oscar.

Of Grouch fame.

The green monster from Sesame Street.

The show for preschoolers.

Yes.  I bought my 11-year-old son a preschool cake for his birthday party.

Oh, the horror.  The way my heart fell.  The way I knew I’d failed my son.  But only for a split second.  Because we moms are resilient problem-solvers.

I did what any semi-creative mom would do in the same situation.

I slaughtered Oscar the Grouch.

I committed a grisly, premeditated Sesame Street murder.

Some drizzly red icing and a well-placed knife and I was back in business.

The boys?  They thought it was AWESOME.

Phew!

Delay Tactics

Nov 5 2010

Cai and Cael, age 4, are honing their “don’t let Mom leave” skills.  It’s a virtual rite of passage in childhood, employed most typically at bedtime.

Previous attempts have included the usual childhood gambits.  The desperate thirst for water.  The unbearable urge to pee.  The terror of the dark.

All of these worked for a while.  Mostly because I’m kind of a sucker as a parent.  I spend an inordinate amount of time wondering if my children really are terribly thirsty, parched like a veritable desert, wasting away from dehydration as their callous mother reclines negligently on her chaise sipping wine and eating cheese.

Inevitably, I get the kid water.

However, like the best circus dogs, I can be trained.  Eventually, I remember to get those wily kids a drink of water before they go to bed.  I know… clever, right?

So, kids being kids, they adjust.  They learn new skills and new techniques.  Privately, they draw up their strategic plans complete with objectives, action items and success indicators.

Their latest plan?

Conversational Sidetracking

It goes something like this:

Kiss.

Hug.

Sing the Nite Nite Song.

Me: “Nite nite, boys.  Mommy loves you, loves you.”

Now, of course I know there’s going to be a conversational breakout attempt here.  So I say this as I’m walking to the door to leave, trying to give myself a leg up on getting to the hall-side of their closed door.

It’s really more like: “Nite nite,” …walking to the door… “boys.” …standing in the doorway… “Mommy loves you,”…. scooching my rear out into the hall… “loves you.”… and, if I did it just right, I barely get my toes and lips out of the way of a closing door.

Sadly, the boys have caught on.  So right when I’m to the word “Mommy” they start in.

Cai: “Hey, Mom?  Um, um, um, …”

And this is my favorite part because I love to hear what comes next.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out from their perspective.

Like earlier this week when Cael said: “Hey, Mom?”

And I said: “Yes, Cael?”

And he said: “Your lips smell nice.”

And I laughed.  Funny, yes.  Sweet, definitely… I mean, I know enough to treasure comments about my lips from my little boy because I realize that when he’s 14 he’ll rather die than acknowledge that his mom even has lips.  But an actual success in the Delay Mommy column?  Not so much.

Me: “Thank you, Cael.  Good night.”  The door closes.

Nevertheless, sometimes they are successful.

Like last night.

Cai: “Hey, Mom?  Um, um, um, … your grandma died.  But, but, but, um, not my grandma because she’s regular.”

Target engaged!

You didn’t seriously expect me, the mom who falls repeatedly for “I’m thirsty,” to walk away from my child’s attempts to understand death, did you?

I walked back in the room and sat on the boys’ bed.  (I bet this is a success indicator on their strategic plan.)

Me:  “Yes, Cai Cai, my grandma died.  But not yours.  Do you have questions about that?”

Target locked.

Thus ensued a long conversation about death, particularly about when it happens (“we don’t know the timing, but we hope to live until we’re very, very old”) and to whom (“everyone will die someday, but hopefully not for a long time, so let’s try not to worry about that”).

At the end of our discussion, Cael summed it all up as follows:

  1. We die when we’re very, very old.  (So much for my “we don’t know the timing” explanation, but I do like his version better than mine.)
  2. Mommy’s grandma died because she was very, very old.  (Not really, but whatever.)
  3. Daddy’s grandma is still living because she’s only a little, tiny bit old. (She’ll be 90 next week, so again with the whatever).
  4. Cael’s and Cai’s grandma isn’t at all old.  (Congratulations, Judy!)  So she’s just regular.  (Regular apparently being the opposite of old).

Mission accomplished.

(And I loved every minute of it.  Shhhhh…)

Noah’s Ark: A Lesson in Power

Sep 10 2010

My husband and I teach a class to 3- and 4-year-olds at our church on Sundays.

This is more an act of desperation on the part of the church than it is a statement about our teaching abilities.

This summer, we had a rare, warm, sunny Sunday morning.  We took the kids outside to play.  Being the excellent and dedicated teachers that we are, we didn’t want to go back inside for the planned lesson.  So we didn’t.

We punted.

Me: Hey, kids!  Let’s play a Bible game.

Kids: Yay! Yay! Yay!

Me: Um, we’re going to play a game called… ummmm… Noah’s Ark.  And this play structure is our ark.  And this will be fun because… ummmm… you can be animals!

Kids:  Yay! Yay! Yay!

At this point, I kind of figured this would be easy peasey.  There’s nothing like the unbridled enthusiasm of preschoolers for all things ridiculous.

We played the game six times.  Each time, a different child got to be Noah and build the Ark.  I played the role of God, instructing Noah to build the play structure.  Noah in turn instructed all of the debras and ephalants and why-ons to get on board.

Kids:  I want to be Noah!  No, me!  I want to be Noah!

Me: No worries.  You can all have a turn to be Noah, OK?

Kids: Yay! Yay! Yay!

My brilliant child, Cael, was easily able to tell us the moral of the story.  For those of you who aren’t as familiar with your Bible stories, Cael can tell you that the rainbow is God’s promise to never flush the earth again.

But even my brilliant children couldn’t outshine Kate, my favorite for the day.  Kate’s a woman who catches on quick, who understands power, who knows what she wants.

The final time we reenacted Noah’s Ark, I assigned roles just like I had every time.  We had Cael playing Noah.  We had a tigow, a bode (bird), a mouse and a dog.

Then I asked Kate, What animal do you want to be?

Kate, without hesitation: I don’t want to be an aminal.

Me: Okaaay… what do you want to be?

Kate:  I want to be GOD… turning to Cael and pointing at his nose… Now go build me an ark!

Ahhh.  A girl after my own heart.

Drugs, Sex, and Jesus

Aug 6 2010

Lately my kids have wanted to talk to me about the topic of my choice.

Which is weird.

Like they don’t know what they want to talk about?  Like they really want to open the door to allow me to lecture to them?  About anything?

Sounds good to me.  I’ll pick.  After all, opportunities like this don’t come along every day.

I was driving with my kids on a prolonged trip. My 12-year-old daughter exhausted all of her usual conversational topics, including:

  • Why I won’t buy her a laptop
  • Why I won’t buy her a new cell phone
  • Why I won’t buy her an iPod
  • Why I’m budgeting way too small an amount for back-to-school clothes
    and
  • What I’m buying her for her birthday

So she asked me to pick our next topic.

I recently heard a story about a parent who, at the beginning of any car trip with her teenaged kids, immediately locks the doors and says, “So, kids, want to talk about sex or drugs?”

I assume she locks the doors so they won’t bail at 60 mph, no matter how uncomfortable the conversation gets.  Or maybe so she won’t.

Either way, I took a page straight out of her playbook.

“Sex or drugs.  Pick one.”

My daughter declined.

So I picked.  And then when I was done talking about sex, I picked again and talked about drugs.

Hehehe.

One of those fabulous moments when I get to be a good, communicative mom with a huge heaping side of revenge for all that pre-teen angst.

A couple of days ago, one of my three-year-olds, Cai, said, “Whatcha wanna talk about, Mom?”

I caught myself before I said, “Sex or drugs. Pick one.”

I thought fast and hard about an appropriate topic.

“Let’s talk about Jesus.”

Oh, yes.  I am that inspired.

“Yeah!” Cai responded, which was way better than my daughter’s response to my choice of topics for her.  Maybe next time I’ll choose Jesus.

I asked, “What’s your favorite thing about Jesus, Cai?”

After much thought, Cai said, “She gots magic powers.”

In case you’re curious about what Jesus does with her magic powers, Cai has the answer to that, too.

“She opens things.”

Maybe she can get that dang jam jar open.  Or maybe I’m missing the point.

Maybe she opens conversational opportunities with my kids.

I dig Cai’s Jesus.  She’s cool.

You’re both winners!

Aug 4 2010

When I was a child, my mother had the most irritating habit of ending any competition between my brother and me by exclaiming enthusiastically, “You’re both winners!”  Jeff and I are intensely competitive, even now – perhaps because we could never settle who’d won anything.

Parenting is often a series of extremes, picking and choosing which things our own parents did that we embrace and which things they did that we patently reject.  We tease my mom all the time about her “two winners” philosophy, but, still…

I reject the notion of two winners.

Aden, age 8, recently informed me that she’ll be marrying her brother Ian, age 10, when they grow up.

I told her this isn’t a good idea.

“Do you know why, Aden?  Why is it a bad idea to marry Ian?”

After some time to consider, Aden replied, “Because he’s mean and he has a girlfriend.”

Hmmm, interesting.

I was going to go with the whole incest thing.

But her focus on non-abuse and faithfulness has merit.

So, as much as I hate to give in, Mom, I’ll suck it up and say it.

Aden, we’re both winners.